English actor talks ‘sickening’ intolerance, waiting for the right queer role and gay Hunger Games fan fiction
After a breakout part in The Hunger Games saga, as dreamy tribute Finnick Odair, and now a starring role opposite Rachel Weisz in My Cousin Rachel, the odds certainly have been in Sam Claflin’s favor. Considering his winning streak, we’re holding out hope that a Fifty Shades of Grey-style rendezvous between him and the Hemsworth brothers – his idea, mind you – could be the British actor’s next major franchise. Till that blessed day comes, check out what the affable Me Before You looker has to say about finding the right gay role, how people are responding to his recent Hollywood body-shaming criticism and French gay porn.
I love seeing a woman in power, but, man, you really get jerked around in My Cousin Rachel. (Laughs) Haven’t we all been there? Haven’t we all been in love and kind of swept off, though usually warned by friends? But, of course, Philip is a bit of a loner and left to his own devices, really. Love is blind, and it makes you do crazy things. (Laughs)
Growing up, what was your introduction to the gay community? I got involved in musical theater at a young age and so that was an immediate part of my life. I mean, the second you kind of step onto the stage and embrace the arts, it becomes a part of you. And the second you open yourself up to becoming an actor and performing and exploring this industry in whatever capacity – any form of art, really – there’s an openness, and it’s a really wonderful and incredibly rewarding industry to work in.
Plus, you’re British. (Laughs) It does really upset me that people aren’t open-minded. People are still hung up on such a traditional old-world life, and people should be allowed to love who they want and be who they want and speak what they want and believe in what they want. I think it’s a shame that people are so narrow-minded that they believe their way is the only way. It’s sickening, in all honesty.
I don’t believe you have played a gay role, and I’m gonna let you give me one good reason why that hasn’t happened. (Laughs) I actually got offered the role of a gay man in a TV series! But I didn’t think it was well enough written. I have auditioned for gay parts and not got them and desperately wanted them. It’s nothing I’m shying away from. It’s something I fully embrace. And, actually, I have done it in plays during drama school, but it just hasn’t worked yet for me. But I’d jump at the chance. I’d be happy to do anything that was sort of good enough for me to kind of get my feet stuck in, like a meaty role, or an opportunity to work with a great director no matter what the story and no matter what the character.
How aware are you of your LGBT fanbase? In all honesty, I kind of don’t know (laughs). What I mean is, any fans, really, I’m just – it’s always a surprise that someone from whatever country or walk of life [is a fan], and it just sort of amazes me that people travel so far and spend so much time waiting. It’s very humbling. It’s something that you can never really get used to. I think you’d be not a nice person if you got used to it. It’s a consistent shock and one that I try to embrace as best I can. I’m always so grateful that people are interested and do go out of their way to watch my movies and follow my social media. I feel very grateful and lucky and thankful.
Recently, you acknowledged being body-shamed on movie sets, and I’m glad you spoke out against the issue as it relates to male actors in Hollywood. There are many men in the LGBT community who deal with body-related issues. You know, I’m like any human being on this planet; I have my insecurities. And it fascinates me that bringing it up in an interview resonated with so many people, only because people seem surprised by the fact that happened. I’m like, are you kidding me? It’s been happening for decades and decades and decades. It’s just not talked about as much.
It’s amazing that it has resonated and hit home for so many people. That is, unfortunately, the harsh reality of the world that we live in. We sort of live our lives through Instagram and Twitter and these filters, and we give people an insight into our lives, but we’re so, so picky about what it is that we share. It’s so kind of manipulative and it’s warped our reality. In actuality, how many people are Hollywood-ready 24/7? I think for me as a father and as a friend and as a son and as a husband, I wanna be around my loved ones – I don’t wanna be spending every day under the sun working out.
Actress Niecy Nash recently told The Cut, “Hollywood is a business that will often require you to be something else. But at some point you have to say, I’m going to be 100 percent who I am and be OK with that.” Does that resonate with you? When was the point in your career you decided to be your authentic self? Don’t get me wrong: I wholly agree with what she said. But at the same time, also, one of the reasons I got into acting was because of my insecurities, I suppose. I enjoy hiding behind different characters. My social media feed doesn’t really reflect exactly what I’m doing. I am active on social media, but it’s not quite my life. That, to me, is private. And when I work I love exploring and having those other characters be another side of me and sharing them with the world. In truth, I partly enjoy physically transforming myself for roles. Someone whose career I admire is Christian Bale; he mentally and emotionally goes to a different place every time, and he physically transforms himself and that’s always quite admirable.
At the same time, to stand out from the crowd, and in order to put your stamp on your work, to have that confidence in yourself somewhat, you have to believe in yourself that you can do it. I still feel like I’m finding my own feet, and every day I’m learning something new. There will definitely come a time when I’m 100 percent confident in myself, I hope. But I’m not quite there yet. As an actor, you kind of constantly panic about what people think, and we strive for perfection as actors, but the thing about being an actor is you’ll never be perfect.
Till then, we’ll always have you giving Josh Hutcherson CPR in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In fact, you had a real bromance there for a while, and you even said during an interview, “My mouth touching his was a beautiful moment.” When can we expect you to rekindle that fire? You know, Josh is honestly one of my favorite people in the world. In all honesty, every time I go to Los Angeles – and I’ve only been there once since we finished Hunger Games, if you can believe it – I always hope that I can actually hang with him, and I’m sure if he’s in London he knows he could give me a call. But yeah, hopefully something can be rekindled – that’s the hope. He’s one of my favorites.
Hunger Games fans have some of the wildest imaginations – and some pretty fantastic gay ideas for you, Josh and Liam Hemsworth. What are your thoughts on the gay fan fiction that’s been written about you three? Fan fiction is one of those things I wish I knew more about. Someone was telling me that Fifty Shades of Grey was based on Twilight fan fiction. I didn’t realize there was an underworld with these kind of amazingly imaginative ideas. I had no idea! But I love Liam as much as I love – in fact, I love Chris Hemsworth. I love the entire Hemsworth family. I say we get all of us involved and we do a Fifty Shades of Grey. We can make it reality.
In Me Before You, there’s a recurrent joke regarding French gay porn. Please tell me that was based on an anecdote from your own life. (Laughs) I can’t say I’ve watched any French porn, actually. No, French porn is not something that I’ve seen before. However, now I’m intrigued!
As editor of Q Syndicate, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. Reach him via his website at chris-azzopardi.com and on Twitter (@chrisazzopardi).